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Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law.
This is a cross-post from Transcend Media Services
Nonviolence vs. Nonexistence!
Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” That choice is becoming ever more profound as we enter the new year of 2014. For billions of people around the world, and for the earth itself, life is hanging by a thread. The choice is do we foster a world free of war, poverty, and climate crisis through non-violent action, or do we continue on the downward spiral toward nonexistence.
By Dave Lindorff
So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people," and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
As we evaluate the outcomes of the recent UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, one lesson that we are invited to learn, again, relates to our strategy for getting effective action taken on the ongoing climate catastrophe and other critical environmental problems. Is lobbying elites to change their behaviour an effective strategy for change?
My experience, reinforced by decades of casual observation, is that lobbying elites is a complete waste of time and that a strategy that focuses on inviting ordinary individuals and groups to take action in the desired direction is far more effective. Why do I say this?
The pre-eminent problem confronting humankind is human violence. It is our own violence, in its various guises, including the ongoing possibility of nuclear war and the ongoing devastation of the natural environment, that threaten to consign us to the fossil record within decades, if not sooner. And yet we devote virtually no effort to trying to understand human violence and to developing strategies to end it. Why?
Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013
On November 25-26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-emptive peace response”
direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing
white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace.
www.TheBlueScarf.org “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has
become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in
Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to
express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6
at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a
security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora,
a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night.
After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of
the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different
people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests. These past 3 years, many more people in
our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in
other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily
used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland
gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with
messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some
of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare. The large NO DRONES light brigade
signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical
confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone
quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk,
though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to
deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through). Not all of us were able to risk arrest,
thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our
deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that
maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved.
Four of us, Shirley, Flora, Michael and MacGregor then walked about ½ mile down the road to the
waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she
had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn
the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent
civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the
four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were
processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold
morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing
and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we
hope you will join us the next time.
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The real criminal, our government, jails the real hero: The Hero and the Villains: the Jeremy Hammond Sentence
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Friday, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond stood in a federal courtroom and told Judge Loretta A. Preska why he released a trove of emails and other information uncovering the possibly illegal and certainly immoral collaboration of a major surveillance corporation called Stratfor with our government.
As our government continues the illegal and immoral killer drone program, terrorizing communities around the world, members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) continue our resistance. As part of that resistance I was on trial with four other activists in US District Court in Alexandria,VA on October 22. Joining me were Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska. Cindy Sheehan was also arrested with us, but was unable to attend the trial because of an illness.
We began our resistance against the CIA drone program when we filed a criminal complaint against the CIA with the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA on May 23, 2013. As citizen activists we are responsible for reporting crimes that we know are being committed. So we went to the US Attorney’s office and we were able to meet with Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. He talked with us for about 40 minutes and accepted our complaint. We then followed up with phone calls and emails to his office in our attempt to hold the CIA accountable for their crimes. However, we did not receive any response.
We decided to continue our resistance with a letter to CIA Director John Brennan. In the letter we told him why we oppose the drones and we asked for a meeting to discuss our concerns. When we didn’t get a response from him, we went to the CIA on June 29, 2013. Our crime was to walk onto the CIA property with a copy of the unanswered letter in our hands and ask for a meeting with CIA officials.
We were arrested and charged with trespassing. After some preliminary matters, including a motion filed for extended discovery (which was denied) our trial was scheduled for October 22. We made plans to defend ourselves, pro se, and at about 10:00am on October 22 we walked into Judge Ivan Davis’ courtroom in the US District Court in Alexandria, VA as he was finishing up with another case.
As our case was called, we walked to the front of the courtroom, and the five of us crowded around the defense table. I got ready to take notes on the proceedings, and as the trial began and the judge immediately began to chastise Max, the first words I wrote were “He’s scary”. Right from the start he was very antagonistic and argumentative towards Max. Max tried to argue again for extended discovery and the judge did not want to hear anything about it.
The prosecutor, US Attorney on special assignment from the CIA, Stacy Chaffin, gave a short opening statement and framed the case for the judge stating this was a simple case of trespass and that though we would try to bring the issue of drone warfare into the trial, this was only about us trespassing on CIA property on June 29. It was not about drones, she emphasized.
Ms. Chaffin had one witness, Police Officer Davilla. He said that we had a letter that we wanted to deliver, and it was accepted by an official with the CIA. He said there was a mock air strike and the defendants fell across the police line and were allowed to lie there, but when they got up and moved forward he read us a warning and when we didn’t leave we were arrested.
Max cross-examined Davilla and Ms. Chaffin objected to almost every question he asked with Judge Davis sustaining the objections. Max asked if the letter that Davilla mentioned could be entered as evidence and the judge refused this request. When questioned by Max, Davilla claimed he didn’t know that the mock air strike was supposed to be a simulated drone strike. Malachy followed up, asking Davilla to read the police report. In the police report, written by Davilla, it was noted that it was a mock drone strike. The government was working hard to try to keep the word “drone” out of the proceedings.
Throughout the questioning of the government witness Judge Davis repeated over and over that what Max and Malachy were saying was not relevant. He shut them down at every turn and seemed very angry.
I took the stand as the first defense witness, and gave background information. I said that I live in Mt. Horeb, WI. I am a wife of 41 years, a mother of five, and a grandmother of six, with a seventh on the way. I have my PhD in Women’s Studies. Spending time with my grandchildren and doing the work I am involved in for peace and social justice are the things I spend most of my time on. The two are very interconnected. My grandchildren inspire me to do this work. I said that I think about what kind of world my grandchildren will live in when they grow up and that makes me continue with this work. I felt very overwhelmed by emotion as I talked about being a grandmother, and stated that as a grandmother I don’t just think of my own grandchildren, but I think of all the children of the world. I want to spread my arms wide around all the children of the world and keep them safe. I think about the children who are dying from drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places around the world. I am a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) and we have been acting in resistance to the illegal actions of our government since 2003. We have done actions at the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and the Department of Justice. We write letters to both elected officials and government personnel about our concerns before each visit. It has become clear that those in our government feel they are no longer accountable to the citizens of this country because we have never once gotten any kind of reply to any of our letters. When we don’t get a response we follow up with a visit in person and have often been arrested simply for seeking a meeting with a government official.
The statute for trespassing states that unauthorized people are not allowed on the property, but under cross-examination I stated that I believed I was authorized to be there under the First Amendment and that I was obligated to be there under the principles that came out of Nuremberg. I talked about what happened at the CIA on June 29 and was able to say that we were there because of our concerns that thousands of innocent people, including children, are dying as a result of our government’s illegal activities.
After seeing the judges response to Max and Malachy, I was very surprised that he let me say all that I said.
Janice took the stand next. She talked about being a teacher and about how it is important to show children how to resolve conflict through mediation. She testified that many of the children she taught in ESL classes were from war-torn countries and that she doesn’t want to see this kind of suffering anymore. She stated that it is more than the US Constitution that gives her the right to do what she did on June 29, but that she has that right as a human being.
I gave the closing statement (see below) and then without any deliberation at all, the judge found us guilty. I looked him right in the eye during the last sentence of my closing, “We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.” but he refused to open his heart to what we were saying.
His arguments for the conviction were that there was police tape with the words “Do not cross” and this should have put us on notice. He said that the defendants could argue that because they were allowed to be there, according police testimony and the police report, that meant they were authorized. However when Officer Davilla read the warning that we should leave or we would be arrested, we should have know we would be arrested at that point and we should have left. He argued that although the defendants said that we did not intend to break the law, this was not a crime of intent and so our intention was irrelevant. He also said that Nuremberg does not apply because there were no international laws broken. This was an astonishing statement to hear the judge make.
Also unbelievable were statements made by Judge Davis that the Bill of Rights were irrelevant, Nuremberg was irrelevant, and drone strikes were irrelevant. He said this is a court of law, not morality.
The prosecutor asked for unsupervised probation, reasoning that we were obviously nonviolent. This was a surprise because she had told Max and Malachy at a pre-trial hearing that she would ask for supervised probation.
All the defendants, except for me, gave moving sentencing statements. I said what I needed to in the closing and didn’t need to say more, but I am glad the others were able to speak out so clearly about our need to be there and to be doing what we did.
The judge gave us one year unsupervised probation and said that we should not violate the law in that year or return to the CIA for protesting in an unauthorized fashion. We would also be fined $300 plus court costs.
Malachy asked for clarification on the sentence because he vigils outside the gates of the CIA monthly. The judge said that would be acceptable as long as he does not go onto CIA property.
What happened next was something I have never seen before. Judge Davis said that now that the whole thing was over he had a question he wanted to ask us just to satisfy his curiosity. He said that all we tried to do all morning was to talk about drones, but what if there was a plane with a pilot who killed someone, would we be there? Of course we would be there, we responded. But what was the meaning of this question? Was he putting us down and making fun of us? Of course he knew how we would answer to that question.
On our way out of the courthouse we were required to check in at the probation office. Though we have been on unsupervised probation, we have never had to do check in with the probation office before. We were given a stack of forms to fill out and were surprised when we realized they wanted us to sign releases for access to medical, psychiatric, financial, educational, and jobs records. Though we all know the government is spying on us and getting this information, we were not going to willingly submit and give our permission for this kind of serious intrusion of privacy. After raising our concerns to the receptionist, we were able to talk to a supervisor who said we did not have to fill out the forms, but if they needed the information they would come after us.
The trial was two weeks ago. It takes a lot out of you emotionally and physically, but in one week I will return to DC to ttend the CodePink drone summit. NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance on Capitol Hill for Nov. 18 and then I will be traveling from DC to the SOA Watch in Georgia. I will be so looking forward to returning home on Nov. 24 to spend the holidays with my family, even as I remember those who are not able to spend time with their loved ones because of the US drone attacks.
We filed for an appeal and we also filed a motion to stay the execution of the sentence pending the appeal. I am feeling deeply conflicted about the year of probation with the order to not get arrested during that time or face the serious consequences of Judge Davis’ courtroom. In the mail today I received a counter motion, for the stay of execution, filed by the prosecutor. She wrote that she is willing to stay the payment of the fine, but not to stay the year of unsupervised probation. In her motion she states, “the probation is necessary to protect the community…”. How arrogant and ironic and ridiculous! Ask Nabila who poses a threat to her community.
It is wrong whether a bomb is dropped from a plane with a pilot or from a drone. It is wrong if it is soldiers on the ground fighting to expand the empire through the pain, suffering, and death of innocent children, women, and men around the world. As long as these crimes continue, I will join my compatriots in standing in resistance and calling for an end to the illegal actions of our government. We will work together for a world where communities are a place of peace and justice and where children can play happy and free.
CIA Arrest June 29, 2013 Trial October 22, 2013
Good morning/ afternoon Your Honor. My name is Joy First, defendant pro se and I will be giving the closing statement for our group.
We are standing before you today, Your Honor, being charged with Trespassing - Entering or remaining on an Agency Installation without proper authorization.
But the government did not \prove our guilt on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. We have shown that we did not go to the CIA on June 29, 2013 to break the law; rather we went there to uphold the law.
It should not be presumed that we were there to engage in unlawful activities. We are people of nonviolence, involved in Constitutionally-protected speech. Our intent was to seek a meeting with Mr. Brennan and to influence him, wake him up, affect his conscience, and shame him perhaps, but we never engaged in any criminal activity.
You heard testimony that the police knew we were coming and had erected a police line at the main entrance gate of the Central Intelligence Agency on Dolley Madison Boulevard.
You heard testimony that we were given mixed messages from the police regarding this line. First being told we would be arrested if we crossed the line of police tape, but then according to the police report as we crossed the police line, “CIA Police Personnel backed up and allowed them to lie on the ground.” Then, as we moved further onto the property we were arrested. To us, it was not clear what the boundaries were, and what we could and could not do. We were on CIA property during the rally, and we were on CIA property when we did the die-in. We did not know if or when we would be arrested.
You heard testimony that we did, in fact, go to the CIA on June 29 and ask for a meeting with Mr. Brennan or one of his representatives to discuss our concerns.
You heard testimony that it was only when that meeting was refused that we were moved by our conscience to walk peacefully onto CIA property expressing our very deep concerns about the CIA involvement in illegal drone strikes.
We were charged with trespassing – being on the CIA base without “proper authorization.” But you heard witnesses state that they believed that not only were we authorized under the US Constitution, but we were obligated to be there under the principles of Nuremberg.
You heard testimony that though the police told us we had to leave, we believed it was our right and our duty to refuse that order.
You heard from both government and defense witnesses that we acted in a nonviolent and a peaceful and cooperative manner throughout the whole process.
Sadly, a large portion of the citizenry are unable or unwilling to challenge the government when it engages in activities which are unlawful. However, these five defendants have a long and worthy history of engaging in the legislative process. We defendants are citizen activists, who have engaged in dialogue with many elected officials mostly over peace and justice matters. We recognized a long time ago that War Is Not the Answer. It is wrong on many levels—wasting tax dollars which could go to social programs, creating enemies when random acts of violence attack generally poor people in the Middle East and make our government representatives to be hypocrites when challenging another country’s human rights violations.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that we were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” However, we were instead arrested.
According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters to speak out. Robert Jackson, the United States judge at the Nuremberg trials said, “The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.”
Your honor, the bottom line is that thousands of innocent people are dying and it is up to all of us to do everything we can to stop the pain and suffering and death being inflicted on these people by our government.
We ask that you please find us not guilty as charged and join us in working for peace and true justice in the world.
Thank you for your time and attention to this case.
Every day, human adults kill 35,000 of our children. We kill them in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes. We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death in Africa, Asia and Central/South America because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.
495 supporters from around the world write letters in support of clemency application
Donations to assist the Rivera Family can be made online here. 100% of donated funds will assist the Rivera Family.
By James Branum and Courage to Resist. November 4, 2013
Fort Carson, Colorado – Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera has submitted a clemency application seeking a reduction by 45 days in the 10 month prison sentence she received for seeking asylum in Canada rather return to her unit in Iraq.
The request for clemency was based on humanitarian reasons due to pregnancy. Unless clemency is granted, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera will be forced to give birth in prison and then immediately relinquish custody of her son while she continues to serve the remainder of her sentence.
Unfortunately military regulations provide no provisions for her to be able to breastfeed her infant son while she is in prison.
Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills will be making a decision on PFC Rivera’s clemency request in the coming weeks.
PFC Rivera’s case made international news when she was the first female US soldier in the current era to flee to Canada for reasons of conscience. After a protracted struggle through the Canadian legal system, she was deported back to the United States in September 2012. She was then immediately arrested and sent back to the Army to stand trial.
In an interview with Courage to Resist on the eve of her court-martial, Rivera said, “When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn’t fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn’t. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyone… I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed—so I left... Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war.”
On April 29, 2013, PFC Rivera pled to charges of desertion. She was sentenced by the military judge to fourteen months in prison, loss of rank and pay, and a dishonorable discharge; thanks to a pre-trial agreement her sentence was reduced to an actual sentence to ten months of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.
Kimberly Rivera has been recognized by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.” She is the mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 4 and 2.
Kimberly Rivera’s request for clemency was accompanied by 495 letters of support, written by family members, friends, as well as members of Amnesty International from 19 countries.
“We have many organizations to thank for the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera, including Amnesty International, Courage to Resist, the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada, Veterans for Peace and Coffee Strong,” said James M. Branum, civilian defense attorney for PFC Rivera. “We also want to recognize the tireless efforts of local supporters in Colorado Springs and San Diego who have taken the time to visit Kim in prison as well as to provide important support to Kim’s family in her absence.”
While the official clemency request is now complete, supporters of PFC Rivera are still encouraged to continue to speak out on her behalf. Letters in support of PFC Rivera’s clemency request can be sent directly to:
Brigadier General Michael A. Bills
c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913
Supporters are also encouraged to sign an online petition posted at:
Photos: Top-Kimberly with husband Mario during her court martial. Middle-Kimberly in Canada prior to being deported. Bottom-Courage to Resist rallies outside Canadian Consulate, San Francisco CA, prior to Kimberly's forced return.
DE WITT, NY JUDGE RE-ISSUES HANCOCK AIR BASE DEFENDANTS’ EXPIRED ORDERS OF PROTECTION, SUPPRESSING THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO PROTEST DRONE WAR CRIMES THERE
In 2012 on October 25, seventeen U.S. Americans, as part of Upstate Drone Action’s ongoing campaign to expose the extensive killings of innocent civilians by weaponized Reaper drones piloted from Hancock Air Base, were arrested as they protested outside the base, blocking its three entrances.
Upon arraignment that day in the DeWitt, New York town court, the 17 were given year-long Orders of Protection (OOP), at the request of Col. Earl A. Evans, forbidding their return to Hancock, home of the 174th Attack [sic] Wingof the NY Air National Guard.
Typically a court uses an OOP to protect vulnerable women and children from domestic violence. In this case, according to defendant Ed Kinane of Syracuse, “the court is bastardizing the OOP to suppress our First Amendment right to petition our government for redress of grievance.” (On Oct. 25, 2012 the defendants had unsuccessfully attempted to bring a citizens’ war crime indictment to Hancock.)
Last night (Oct. 30) DeWitt court Judge David Gideon renewed the expired OOP until April 30, 2014 (or until the conclusion of the 17’s trial for trespass and disorderly conduct, now finally scheduled last night for 5 pm December 12.)
In a historic decision, five Catholic Worker activists were acquitted Thursday of disorderly conduct charges for blocking the main entrance to Hancock Air Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, Syracuse, New York.
Hancock is a Reaper drone hub whose technicians pilot weaponized drones over Afghanistan. The five went “pro se," defending themselves in the De Witt town court of Judge Robert Jokl. In his closing statement Fr. Bill Picard said, "We pray for you, Judge Jokl, to have the courage to do the right and courageous thing."
After the verdict was announced, the D.A. objected, and the judge said to him that he hadn’t found mens rea, Latin for "guilty mind." The five defendants, with powerful eloquence, convinced the judge that their intent was to uphold, not break, the law. This acquittal marks a major breakthrough by those who have sought to strengthen international law, and stop U.S. war crimes, including extra-judicial murder by the illegal drones.
Defendant Carmen Trotta said, "We are happy to be part of a groundswell of opposition to the drones. What a joy to win such a verdict on what is officially United Nations day. We told the judge that we were not alienated citizens, but rather engaged citizens! Ultimately it seems he was moved by our consciences." Carmen noted the recent groundswell included Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the head of the Jesuits Order, Alfanso Nicolas, UN Special Rapporteur Mr. Emmerson, and the Nobel Peace Nominee, the young Pakastani girl shot for promoting education for women and girls, in Pakistan, all of whom have condemned drone U.S. drone strikes.
Defendant Linda LeTendre stated, "My hope is that dissent is once again welcome in the US and we turn away from killing to caring as a country."
Ellen Grady stated, "We pray and will continue to act that the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and all countries will some day soon be without the terror of drones or any wars!"
~ Fr. Bill Frankle-Streit of Virginia;
~ Linda Le Tendre of Saratoga Springs; NY
~ Ellen Grady of Ithaca, NY;
~ Carmen Trotta of New York, NY;
~ Fr. Bill Pickard of Scranton, PA.
Ash Wednesday Statement - Feb. 13, 2013
We come to Hancock Airfield, home of the National Reaper Drone Maintainence and Training Center, this Ash Wednesday, to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God's forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children. The killer drone strikes and the US's killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in a number of countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia. These strikes are illegal and immoral. Under international agreements, which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murders, violations of national sovereignty, and violations of due process are ALL illegal acts.
We come to Hancock Airfield this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these drones. We remind ourselves that our lives are brief and mysterious, and that "from dust we were created and to dust we shall return!" The significance of our brief animation is the degree to which we love one another.
Lent is a time to repent--literally, to change our minds. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' command to love our neighbors and our enemies. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' radical, non-violent message love.
Stop the Killing. Ground the Drones. STOP the Wars.
What is the measure of a human being? Is it their wealth? Their wisdom? Their spirituality? Is it something that can be measured from the outside? What if it is something else altogether?
Each human being is genetically programmed with a drive to seek and find meaning in life and it will endeavour to do this throughout its life if it is allowed to do so. What constitutes ‘meaning in life’ varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on many factors (including the genetic endowment, social context and the natural environment) but the ultimate outcome would be what is sometimes described as consciousness or Self-realization in a form that would be unique for each individual.
WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. Frequently NCNR members have been arrested, and then in court speak out against such U.S. policies. On May 23, 2013 members of NCNR filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia against the CIA’s use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries, including Pakistan. The citizen activists never received a response.
WHAT:Subsequently, NCNR gathered some 200 signatures on a letter to CIA Director John Brennan seeking a meeting to discuss ending the assassination program. Again there was no response. On June 29, 2013 six activists went to the Central Intelligence Agency hoping to arrange a meeting with CIA officials. While a CIA representative accepted the letter, he would not speak with the petitioners. Sothese petitioners engaged in a die-in to represent the victims of the assassination program. The police then arrested Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI, Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA, Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD, Phil Runkel, Milwaukee, WI, Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Lexington, KY, and charged them with “enter or remain on installation without authorization.” Now they are scheduled for trial.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9 AM
WHERE: U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA
WHY: Activists across the country continue to work to bring an end to the illegal and immoral killer drone strikes which have killed around 3500-4500 people, including hundreds of children, around the globe with no due process. The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is one of the groups working against this assassination program.
When the citizen activists went to the CIA, over 60 people rallied at the gates of the CIA with speakers who have been to Pakistan and who have spoken to families affected by drone strikes.Of course, the CIA would refuse to meet with the activists, as the assassination program wreaks of unlawfulness. In court the defendants will argue they were authorized to be at the CIA, and should not have been arrested. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that they were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. Moreover, the Nuremberg trials pointed out that citizens must act to prevent their government from further illegal activities.
It seems a child has said what most politicians choose to ignore. Malala Yousafzai met with President Obama. Philip Rucker of THE WASHINGTON POST on Oct. 11, 2013 wrote this: “Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are ‘fueling terrorism.’" And killer drone strikes are a blatant disregard of due process and an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars. The defendants intend to raise these points in court, and will continue their efforts to end the CIA’s assassination program, regardless of the verdict.
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.
The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012.
Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?
In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."
Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.
U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House
Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014.
NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval
After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12.
This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.
The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.
President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House
"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes.
Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."
"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club
Why, I asked Hayes?
"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."
NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines.
Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault
Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process.
"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes.
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so.
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia
"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.
"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law."
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water.
There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.
Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment.
"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.
"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."
Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.
"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).
U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists
Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."
While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects.
"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman.
"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."
Violence is the most pervasive and destructive human problem of them all. It has been present for as long as history records. We are mired in it, all over the world, every day of our lives. It now threatens to obliterate us from the historical record within decades, if not sooner.
What is violence? Let me define this phenomenon more precisely so that we might tackle it more effectively.
Violence is social interference in the genetically programmed feelings, thoughts, sensing and/or behavior of another organism. It might be inflicted by an individual or an institution.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.
By Ken Meyercord
Prior to the new constitution, Syria was officially a one-party state: the Baathist party, to which the current and former president belonged, being that party. In 2007 the nomination by the Syrian parliament of Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria was approved by 98% of the electorate with a 96% turnout rate - just the sort of mandate you would expect of an authoritarian regime. Under the new constitution Syria became a multiparty state; elections to parliament were open to any political party.
In May of last year parliamentary elections under the new constitution were held. There were two blocs contending for the vote: the pro-government National Progressive Front, comprised of 6 parties, and the oppositional Popular Front for Change and Liberation, which included two parties. Of the 250 seats in the assembly, the Baathists won 134 seats with 34 seats distributed among the other parties in the National Front, including 6 seats for the two factions of the Communist Party. The opposition shared 5 seats. Seventy-seven members of the new parliament were not affiliated with any party. The constitution stipulates that at least half of the members of the assembly must be workers or farmers.
In other words, the Syrian parliament encompasses a diversity of opinion we can only dream of seeing in our own Congress - quite a coup for the nonviolent opposition. An election for President is scheduled for next May, quite a concession for a man our media labels a "thug", "dictator", "tyrant", especially as most governments, including our own, when facing a stressful situation become more authoritarian (e.g., Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the Patriot Act, etc.) . It can be argued that the Syrian peaceful revolution is the most successful transition to democracy of the Arab Spring. What more does the violent opposition want? No wonder they have to rely on foreign Jihadists to do their fighting!
Critics of the Syrian regime will claim the elections were fraudulent, or, as the Obama administration put it, "ludicrous". I have no idea whether this is the case and would welcome the views of those better informed than me. I suspect critics of the elections seldom offer any supporting evidence for their claims. Every country grapples with seeing that their elections are fair (cf. Voter ID laws). Before we dismiss the newfound democracy in Syria as a sham, maybe we should give it a chance, especially as the lives of thousands of people - mostly Syrian but perhaps some of our own - are at risk. If the administration's goal in Syria is regime change, maybe it should wait and see whether the Syrian people effect it in a peaceful manner next spring or, if the incumbent is re-elected, accept the fact that democracy doesn't always work out the way we would like.
Postscript: If you didn't know about recent political developments in Syria, don't feel bad. I attended an event the other day where none of the speakers - neither Cole Bockenfeld and Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) nor Shadi Hamid, Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution - were aware of the elections held under the new Syrian constitution.
Ken Meyercord produces a public access TV show called Worlddocs which "brings the world to the people of the Washington, DC area through documentaries you won't see broadcast on corporate TV." He has a Master's in Middle East History from the American University of Beirut.
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
As we approach the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October, which recognizes Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, one challenge we face is to celebrate his life in a way that Gandhi himself would have found meaningful. Gandhi was not a man of token gestures. His life was dedicated to his search for the Truth and guided by his passionate belief that nonviolence was the means to reach it. He was a visionary who was profoundly aware of the damage human violence is doing to ourselves, each other and the Earth.
Despite his example, most of us are familiar with those horror lists that reveal the extent of our ongoing violence. Here is a sample just to refresh your memory.
Spectacle Actions Continue in Washington, DC to Expose Secret Trade Agreement; Fast Track Sought by Obama Administration
Washington, DC – A fourth day of action will take place today as energy builds to expose the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and pressure Congress to vote “no” on granting Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority) to the President. Fast Track would allow the President to negotiate and sign the TPP without Congressional hearings or amendments on the full content of the text and without full consideration of the impact the TPP will have on laws that protect consumers, workers and the environment.
Activists are also demanding that the text of the TPP be released to Congress, the media and the public. It is unprecedented that the text of a trade agreement is classified as secret and kept from the public. The TPP is the largest agreement since the World Trade Organization was created in the mid-1990s, and it has the potential, because of its docking agreement that allows more countries to join it, to grow larger. Leaked portions of the text raise concerns that the TPP is a rigged corporate trade deal that will undermine national sovereignty and place the public’s safety at risk.
As part of the Stop Fast Track Action Camp put together by the Flush the TPP campaign, actions started on Friday with a lively rally outside of the office of the US Trade Representative. On Sunday evening, the spectacle actions began when a light projection team shined messages on a government building saying “TPP Dismantles Democracy,” “Toxic for People and the Planet,” among others. See photos here: http://www.
Yesterday, eight activists scaled the office of the US Trade Representative and dropped four banners calling for democracy and transparency. See reports with photos and videos here: http://www.
Today, a lively, spectacle march will connect the institutions responsible for promoting trans-national corporate profits at the expense of real human suffering and death and destruction of the planet. Activists, with help from the Backbone Campaign, constructed a 32 foot “TPP Express” to illustrate the dangerous consequences of the TPP if it is passed in secrecy and without fully examining its impact on laws from the local to the national levels. The “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck” march will begin at Lafayette Park in front if the White House and end at the Capitol, among the stops along the route will be the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Trade Representative. A rally will be held at 11 ambefore departing in Lafayette Park. Activists will continue to pressure Congress and promise to escalate nonviolent direct action tactics as necessary to stop rigged corporate trade from continuing and succeed in gaining fair trade that puts the needs of people and the planet first.
Today, a lively, spectacle march will connect the institutions responsible for promoting trans-national corporate profits at the expense of real human suffering and death and destruction of the planet. Activists, with help from the Backbone Campaign, constructed a 32 foot “TPP Express” to illustrate the dangerous consequences of the TPP if it is passed in secrecy and without fully examining its impact on laws from the local to the national levels.
The “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck” march will begin at Lafayette Park in front if the White House and end at the Capitol, among the stops along the route will be the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Trade Representative. A rally will be held at 11 ambefore departing in Lafayette Park.
Activists will continue to pressure Congress and promise to escalate nonviolent direct action tactics as necessary to stop rigged corporate trade from continuing and succeed in gaining fair trade that puts the needs of people and the planet first.
Message for the Air Force Association Arms Bazaar (9-18-13)
by Bob Cooke
My name is Bob Cooke and I am with Pax Christi Metro DC- Baltimore.
Thank all of you for coming out here tonight as military leaders, military contractors and representatives of foreign counties again gather for the annual Air Force Arms Bazaar to show the world the new weapons of destruction we have developed and in order to sell them throughout the world. As we know, these new weapons will not make the world safer, as many in the banquet room will be saying. They will only increase the level of violence our world knows, since violence begets violence.
I also thank the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker for once again this year calling us out here. Even though our numbers are relatively small, our presence is very important. In the words of Daniel Berrigan, it is important that we “fracture the good order” of the Air Force Arms Bazaar Dinner, to the degree that we can, and witness to the fact that the selling of advanced arms around the world should not go on as “business as usual” without at least some outcry of protest from those who oppose violence, and especially from those who claim to follow the nonviolent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, such as Pax Christi members. We thank the DDCW for calling us out here each year to witness against this great evil.
While we are here tonight, let us also remember the thirteen victims of gun violence who died within a couple of miles from here on Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. Domestic violence and international violence, which is being advocated within the walls of the Gaylord National Convention Center this week, are closely aligned. Is it any wonder that in a world where the countries of the world, lead by the United States, advocates the use of military force as the main way to “RESOLVE” conflict, that many people in this country, lead by the NRA and gun manufacturers, have successfully stopped even the most basic, common sense steps to try to alleviate the level of domestic gun violence and oppose any attempts to make it harder for any U.S. citizen to buy and carry virtually any gun they so desire?
As a member of Pax Christi, I would also like to remind us all of the words of St. Paul, who saw the fight we are involved in as a spiritual one that must be won by changing the hearts, minds and spirits of people. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood; but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the
whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:12,13).
Let us remember, as we are here tonight, that the “world rulers of this present darkness” can only be defeated by the power of love and non-violence, which have been shown to us in the lives of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many, many others, who have walked this earth before us and who are walking in our midst today, including those of us gathered here tonight.
Let us pray that some of those people sitting at this dinner tonight will have a change of heart, mind and spirit and realize the utter madness and futility of the “solution” they propose to make the world safe by killing our alleged “enemies”. Let us remember the words of Jesus, who called us to love our enemies. It is only through such love that people’s hearts, minds and spirits can be changed. So we pray for those in that dinner tonight, that one, or more, of them will realize the great evil they are partaking in and will one day join us on the outside calling for an end to the selling of these weapons of destruction.
Thank all of you for being witnesses to the power of love. Let us continue to work together with increasing vigor to help win this spiritual battle by using love’s weapon of nonviolence to defeat the evil powers of greed, militarism and domination.
By Robert C. Koehler
Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option. Mel Duncan, cofounder of an organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce, was talking about Syria, the country we almost bombed and maybe still will. In lieu of tossing godlike lightning bolts at Bashar al-Assad, “The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration,” the WashingtonPost reported last week. “The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.” So our war with Syria is only partially averted, apparently. It plunges back into something covert, minimally publicized, silently lethal, silently insane: our normal relationship with so much of the world. “. . . the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.” The aim of peacebuilding is peace, not strategic advantage. It’s not an “international chess game” or any other sort of game. It’s basic humanity. With an extraordinarily small commitment of money — and a large commitment of courage — we could have peace and stability on this planet in relatively short order. The main problem is that peacebuilding, at least in the volatile, resource-rich, up-for-grabs regions of the world, is also a complete irrelevance to most of the world’s elite political and corporate players, who are interested mainly in gaming the situation for strategic advantage — our children and our future be damned. I doubt we have any chance of moving out of this spiral of global violence until we figure out how to bypass them, that is to say, until we stop being spectators. In the wake of the aborted U.S. missile assault on Syria, I heard encouraging talk about “the other superpower” — the ordinary people of the world, tired of war, organizing for peace. The late Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, used that term in 2003 to describe the millions of people around the planet who took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq. The idea was: Now they’re back, demanding a non-military solution in Syria. I believe there is another superpower out there, but it has to do better than show up once a decade to protest a looming war, then disappear when the headlines fade. This leads me back to my conversation the other day with Mel Duncan, whose U.N.-sanctioned NGO has been doing fieldwork in troubled regions of the world — such places as South Sudan, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — for the last 10 years. The work is intense, culturally engaged, disciplined and professional. Field workers, who receive serious training before they are placed, build trust with every side in local conflict situations. They have succeeded in defusing violent tribal feuds and establishing weapon-free zones — always the long, slow, hard way, from the ground up, by working with local peacemakers and convincing all parties that their best interests are served by cooperation. This isn’t easy, but it’s doable. “Peace can never be achieved using a one-size fits-all model, and effective, long-term projects that last are those that are created by the communities themselves,” concludes a Nonviolent Peaceforce paper on the establishment, by widespread mutual agreement, of a weapon-free zone in the town of Yirol, South Sudan. Compare this slow, painstaking work with the U.S. government’s approach: When missiles are too politically awkward to use, it ships weapons and hopes they remain in the hands of our alleged allies among the rebels, which, of course, will never happen. All it’s doing is fueling the violence in yet one more country it fails to understand. Yet there’s no discussion in the mainstream media about alternative courses of action; and those who support “doing something” generally can’t imagine any form of intervention except military. This is a failure of imagination of enormous proportions. The good news is that not everyone among the “other superpower” is content being a spectator. “We are advancing our exploration of a peacekeeping project in Syria,” Duncan told me. A group of Nonviolent Peaceforce members visited the country in May. On their return, Duncan wrote in MinnPost: “At this very moment, courageous Syrian women and men are working for a peaceful settlement. They are mostly ignored by the world. Most of them are opposed to the government. Some lean toward the regime. They are doing peacebuilding and reconciliation work. They are establishing local cease-fire zones. While differing in viewpoints, they share a commitment to a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Syria.” If an international team of trained peacemakers could assist the locals and, at the same time, give their efforts global credibility and a place at the negotiating table — my God, give women a place at the table — the gangbangers wouldn’t have it all their way. As another Nonviolent Peaceforce paper notes: “. . . in many cases, belligerent parties are not necessarily legitimate representatives of their societies.” Duncan told me that it costs his organization about $50,000 a year to keep one peacekeeper in a given country. Compare this to the million dollars per year it costs the United States for each soldier in Afghanistan, or the billion dollars per month that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would cost to maintain a full-scale military operation in Syria of the sort originally planned. “We’re the fiscal conservatives in this equation,” Duncan said. “We’re not your big-spending militarists.” The Post article about weapons delivery notes that the U.S. has committed itself to “a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition” — a mere trickle of spare change, in Defense spending terms. Yet that’s what it would cost to sustain Duncan’s vision of sending 5,000 trained peacekeepers to Syria for a year. This sounds like the next thing we, “the other superpower,” should demand. We stopped a war, or at least drove it out of the headlines and back into the shadows. Now let’s turn our effort toward building real peace. Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio. © 2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option.
Mel Duncan, cofounder of an organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce, was talking about Syria, the country we almost bombed and maybe still will. In lieu of tossing godlike lightning bolts at Bashar al-Assad, “The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration,” the WashingtonPost reported last week.
“The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.”
So our war with Syria is only partially averted, apparently. It plunges back into something covert, minimally publicized, silently lethal, silently insane: our normal relationship with so much of the world. “. . . the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.”
The aim of peacebuilding is peace, not strategic advantage. It’s not an “international chess game” or any other sort of game. It’s basic humanity. With an extraordinarily small commitment of money — and a large commitment of courage — we could have peace and stability on this planet in relatively short order.
The main problem is that peacebuilding, at least in the volatile, resource-rich, up-for-grabs regions of the world, is also a complete irrelevance to most of the world’s elite political and corporate players, who are interested mainly in gaming the situation for strategic advantage — our children and our future be damned. I doubt we have any chance of moving out of this spiral of global violence until we figure out how to bypass them, that is to say, until we stop being spectators.
In the wake of the aborted U.S. missile assault on Syria, I heard encouraging talk about “the other superpower” — the ordinary people of the world, tired of war, organizing for peace. The late Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, used that term in 2003 to describe the millions of people around the planet who took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq. The idea was: Now they’re back, demanding a non-military solution in Syria.
I believe there is another superpower out there, but it has to do better than show up once a decade to protest a looming war, then disappear when the headlines fade. This leads me back to my conversation the other day with Mel Duncan, whose U.N.-sanctioned NGO has been doing fieldwork in troubled regions of the world — such places as South Sudan, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — for the last 10 years.
The work is intense, culturally engaged, disciplined and professional. Field workers, who receive serious training before they are placed, build trust with every side in local conflict situations. They have succeeded in defusing violent tribal feuds and establishing weapon-free zones — always the long, slow, hard way, from the ground up, by working with local peacemakers and convincing all parties that their best interests are served by cooperation. This isn’t easy, but it’s doable.
“Peace can never be achieved using a one-size fits-all model, and effective, long-term projects that last are those that are created by the communities themselves,” concludes a Nonviolent Peaceforce paper on the establishment, by widespread mutual agreement, of a weapon-free zone in the town of Yirol, South Sudan.
Compare this slow, painstaking work with the U.S. government’s approach: When missiles are too politically awkward to use, it ships weapons and hopes they remain in the hands of our alleged allies among the rebels, which, of course, will never happen. All it’s doing is fueling the violence in yet one more country it fails to understand. Yet there’s no discussion in the mainstream media about alternative courses of action; and those who support “doing something” generally can’t imagine any form of intervention except military. This is a failure of imagination of enormous proportions.
The good news is that not everyone among the “other superpower” is content being a spectator. “We are advancing our exploration of a peacekeeping project in Syria,” Duncan told me.
A group of Nonviolent Peaceforce members visited the country in May. On their return, Duncan wrote in MinnPost: “At this very moment, courageous Syrian women and men are working for a peaceful settlement. They are mostly ignored by the world. Most of them are opposed to the government. Some lean toward the regime. They are doing peacebuilding and reconciliation work. They are establishing local cease-fire zones. While differing in viewpoints, they share a commitment to a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Syria.”
If an international team of trained peacemakers could assist the locals and, at the same time, give their efforts global credibility and a place at the negotiating table — my God, give women a place at the table — the gangbangers wouldn’t have it all their way. As another Nonviolent Peaceforce paper notes: “. . . in many cases, belligerent parties are not necessarily legitimate representatives of their societies.”
Duncan told me that it costs his organization about $50,000 a year to keep one peacekeeper in a given country. Compare this to the million dollars per year it costs the United States for each soldier in Afghanistan, or the billion dollars per month that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would cost to maintain a full-scale military operation in Syria of the sort originally planned.
“We’re the fiscal conservatives in this equation,” Duncan said. “We’re not your big-spending militarists.”
The Post article about weapons delivery notes that the U.S. has committed itself to “a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition” — a mere trickle of spare change, in Defense spending terms. Yet that’s what it would cost to sustain Duncan’s vision of sending 5,000 trained peacekeepers to Syria for a year.
This sounds like the next thing we, “the other superpower,” should demand. We stopped a war, or at least drove it out of the headlines and back into the shadows. Now let’s turn our effort toward building real peace.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at email@example.com, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio.
© 2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.